You may have noticed the latest headline figures on unemployment – which, according to the ONS, declined by 35,000 in the three months to March to 2.65 million.
The Guardian article above also points out that youth unemployment also declined slightly, by 9,000 in the three months to February, leaving a total of 1.03 million 16- to 24-year-olds looking for work. The unemployment rate for this age group was 22.2%, down from 22.3% three months earlier.
However, things may not be as rosy as you think, and if you delve, you notice that these headline figures mark a much bleaker picture of employment in the UK.
The government’s definition of unemployment, which comes from The International Labour Organisation (ILO) – an agency of the United Nations is broader than that of the ‘claimant count’ – According to their definition
Unemployed people are those
• Without a job, want a job, have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks and are available to start work in the next 2 weeks, or
• Out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks.
(This is the important bit) In general, anybody who carries out at least one hour’s paid work in a week, or who is temporarily away from a job (e.g. on holiday) is in employment. Also counted as in employment are people on government-supported training schemes and people who do unpaid work for their family’ business.
Technically, this means that, yes unemployment maybe falling, but we need to look at the quality of jobs that are being created – and the picture here is not so good – Consider the following two facts –
(1) – As Polly Toynbe points out, Examine the ONS figures and you find full-time jobs did not increase: they fell by 27,000. All the increase was in part-time jobs for men. There are now 1.4 million part-timers desperately seeking but failing to find longer hours.
This ties in with findings from the JRF foundation which suggest that Underemployment – people who are ‘unemployed, lacking but wanting work or working part-time because no full time job was available’ is now stands at 6 million, or 2 million higher than in 2004.
Secondly, many new jobs may well be New Apprenticeships – A staggering 450000 of which have started in the last year – and Many of these are not actually real jobs at all – In some cases they pay less than the minimum wage – This under-reported phenomenon is actually worthy of a separate blog post – shortly!)
So, yes, formally, the unemployment figures may be going down, but the types of ‘employment’ people are going into are temporary training positions and part-time temporary work – and in both cases wages tend to be low and positions insecure. Yes, unemployment is going down, but the quality of life for those going into employment is also decreasing.